Wednesday, August 6, 2014

There is a hole in my heart the size of the Great Wheel of the Planes.

I miss Planescape.

I miss the art, I miss the factions (really miss the factions), I miss the crazy races, and I miss the ratty kobolds. I miss the gate towns and mixing of cultures. I miss the Blood War between the infernal, demonic, and neutral factions. I miss the ability from level 1 in Dungeons and Dragons to open the wrong door and find yourself out of your depths in Sigil looking for a way home.

I understand the complaints, the issues with how the factions seemed too extreme, or the extreme-kitchen sink approach that Planescape offered. I understand and reject them. Planescape as it was in 2E was damn near the perfect gestalt of D&D thought for the prior editions. I could pull out ANYTHING and throw in the weird industrial revolution London feel of Sigil with the mix and most players wouldn't bat an eye. It was the RIFTS of TSR material. Giant robots, magical fairies, whatever, if you had D&D stats for it it could show up there.

You didn't have to use Planescape. You could run vanilla Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Mystara, you name it. The catch is if player X wanted to show up in setting Y with their character from another 'verse'. As a GM I had the Planes as my ultimate multitool. All it would include was a bit of mystery how they stumbled their way there. I found it more elegant than Spelljammer's crystal sphere's. Not that Spelljammer wasn't fun in it's own way, but I often wondered if they would fit better as a sub-genre under Planescape itself.

Then again, I also liked the 2nd Edition Chronomancer booklet and the Plane of Time, but I'm weird.

Now one of the arguments for the 4E cosmology of D&D was that it left a lot more up to the imagination of the player and DM, but I think it means there is a misunderstanding of the scale of Planescape. The wheel and it's planes are the goalposts. The middle ground between planes, demi planes, the astral, ethereal, elemental planes could be filled with countless worlds, sub worlds. Even the Outlands could be represented by a slice. I could craft a planer nation out of an uneven blog of the Outlands. Off in the distance you see the great spire with Sigil on top, but the rest of the time you deal with the mountains and vast conspiracies in your little kingdom, occasionally visited by dignitaries and monsters from the connected planes.

Or just dip your toe onto planer material a little and have Sigil, the City of Doors act as a hub to and from locations during a shorter adventure. Maybe just a small portal to the Plane of Air with weird monsters spilling out. Even more modern settings like Eberron can fit into the Great Wheel. You just have to make their connections rarer and less important in the overall story. After all Eberron has a plane of dreams where the world gets invaded. It could be a massive continent sized domain deep in the astral to everything else. Still horrific and with it's own rules.

This "The rules change as you travel" was one of the key elements of the setting.

The last thing I loved about Planescape was the races. Tieflings were not generic, aasimars were rare and important, weird hybrids, and off-shoot races, and the ever wonderful Modrons. Gods how I loved the Modrons. May the Manysided be with you!

So there it is. I miss Planescape. And why did I go on this teary eyed trip into my love for a past setting?

Because it's back baby! Early spoilers of 5th Editions Players Handbook present the old school Great Wheel on the return! Sure it sneaked in with some 4E elements here and there...but it's back baby! You ready berk?! I've got a Dabus waiting for us and you better know the cant. The last thing we need is the Fated catching wind of us using this port key. I've got business down with the Duskies. Here we go!